Years of protecting southwest Uganda's mountain gorillas nearly unraveled four years ago when the gorillas began to destroy farm crops outside Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, leading villagers in nearby Nkuringo to kill some of the endangered apes.
Villagers and wildlife officials have since partnered to ensure that the community receives economic benefits for helping to conserve Bwindi's estimated 320 gorillas, about half of the wild global population. The agreement has furthered efforts to ensure the apes' safety and could serve as a model for protecting gorillas elsewhere in central Africa.
In Rwanda and Uganda, gorilla populations are growing due in large part to conservation programs funded by visiting tourists. Bwindi officials began developing sightseeing programs in 2003, and rangers started to follow a group of gorillas to get the animals used to humans. But when the apes started to eat bananas from nearby community farms, "that's when the problem started," said Charles Tumwesigye, a park manager.